After constant attention on negotiations in the National Football League and the subsequent lockout [where the employers refuse to let the employees work] by the owners, there has been something close to silence. Recent court rulings have permitted the owners to go forward with their lockout, at least for now. And, the rest of us just sit back and watch the calendar slowly approach the beginning of the next season.
The gist of the dispute, as I have discussed in earlier commentaries, has been the greed of the owners. There is really no other way to put it. They are seeking concessions from the player, including an extension of the football season, in a situation where the owners cannot demonstrate any economic need for such givebacks. The only logical conclusion as to why the owners have pushed this dispute to the point of a lockout is so that they can destroy the union of the players—the NFL Players Association—and achieve total dominance over the players and the sport.
The Players Association, under its relatively new Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, has been doing a great job of fighting the good fight. In fact, sports writers and fans have expressed significant support for the Players and have, correctly, identified the greed on the part of the owners as the major source of this conflict. Yet the owners see no particular reason to back down. Conservative court decisions in their favor, along with a national political climate that promotes the destruction of labor unions, encourages their arrogance.
What the owners seem to be counting upon is passivity on the part of the fans. The owners actually do not care whether the fans support them or not. What they are concerned with, however, is what the fans do. It is for this reason that the fans of football need to become motivated and active if we want justice to be won by the players. Here are a few ideas:
1. There needs to be a highly visible organization of the fans, something like "We stand with the Players" or something like that. This needs to be more than a couple of people setting up a website. There need to be thousands of active members who sign up to participate.
2. This organization of fans needs to ensure that governmental bodies, particularly municipalities, that have been considering or negotiating any deals that concern new stadiums, put such talks on hold. Not only do most sports stadiums NOT bring economic advancement to locales, but they almost always involve major financial concessions by cities and counties, that is, by the taxpayers. Let's temper the greed of the owners by putting a freeze on further talks for the moment.
3. Few fans, except the most tried and true, have any idea who the actual owners are. So, let's go visit them and introduce ourselves. Let's have large delegations of fans show up at the offices of the owners and make clear, non-violently, our concern about their greed. Perhaps we should have massive vigils to pray for the souls of the owners.
This is a start. It is not a complete list but it is enough to get us running. Time to get away from the television and the sports bars and into the streets. Let's get the voices of the fans heard and put the owners on the hot seats.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided.